Curtain falls on pioneering Tokyo movie theater after 50 years

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People photograph the Iwanami Hall sign in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Friday.

Iwanami Hall, a pioneering Tokyo movie theater closed its doors Friday after 50 years.

Many fans gathered to bid farewell to the Chiyoda Ward-based theater, which had been at the forefront of the so-called mini-theater boom and helped support Japanese movie culture for half a century.

Located near Jimbocho subway station, Iwanami Hall was founded in 1968 as a multipurpose building, and in 1974 launched the Equipe de Cinema program to discover and showcase undersung films from around the world. The program screened 274 films from 66 countries and regions, highlighting cinematic gems from Asia, Africa, and Central and South America, which had, until then, few opportunities to be screened in Japan.

The theater was forced to close due to operational difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was able to see quality films that I couldn’t see anywhere else, and was exposed to the cultures and values of many countries,” said a visitor from Narashino, Chiba Prefecture, who attended the final screening and had been a regular viewer of new films at the venue for a decade. “I’ll truly miss them.”

In closing remarks on the theater’s website, hall manager Ritsuko Iwanami wrote, “I’d like to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has supported our activities and visited the theater.”